Charlotte aux framboises


Ladyfingers (biscuit à la cuiller en Français) are just one of the components of a classic charlotte russe, a dessert created with the finger-like sponge cakes as a border, filled with a fruited bavarois and often garnished with crème Chantilly and fresh fruit. Raspberry and pear are two of the commonly used fruits for this particular delight.

Having recently been asked to make the raspberry version for a birthday dinner party for 10, back to the recipe file I went to review the various options for creating the dessert. Both Le Cordon Bleu’s pear charlotte (from my basic pastry classes there) and Michel Roux’s raspberry charlotte served as the springboard for my decisions. Believe you me, there are lots of variations out there.

I opted for a raspberry crème anglaise with added gelatin, blended with softly whipped cream (the makings of a typical bavarois). I went one step further and added some Italian meringue to boot, but you’d be happy with a bavarois by itself if you don’t want to fuss with the meringue part. Either way it’s a great combo!

The filling (even without the Italian meringue) makes plenty for a 9” springform pan. Put any leftovers in ramekins, chill to set and top with fresh fruit, chopped toasted nuts, chocolate sauce or whatever for a lovely light dessert on the fly.


But let’s take it a step back and review the process, OK? Ladyfingers are basically a sponge cake made with eggs, sugar and flour. The eggs are separated, the yolks are beaten with a portion of the sugar until blanched and thickened, and the whites beaten with the other portion of the sugar to stiff peaks (think meringue). The beaten whites are folded into the yolk/sugar mixture then the flour is sifted into the whole shebang and folded in gently. The leavener here is the aeration created by all of that egg whipping. Here’s the printable ladyfinger recipe.

Then it’s time for piping. Yay!

Wanting to put a diagonal slant on my ladyfinger border, I penciled my template for piping onto parchment paper and turned it over so the marks ended up on the non-baking side.


Pipe the lengths close together so once baked they meld into connected portions with which to line your mold. You can also see my base piece below.


They get a decent dusting of confectioner’s sugar times two before going into the oven. The idea is that the powdered sugar beads and crusts up a bit in the oven.

Bake them at 400ºF for 6-8 minutes et voilà!


It takes a little planning to assemble the charlotte, particularly depending on what type of form or pan you have on hand. In pastry school one typically uses an open cake ring lined with acetate film but I opted for the ring portion of my 9” springform pan lined with a parchment collar.

One of the great things about this dessert is its make-ahead-ability. It can be fully assembled and kept in the fridge for a couple of days or frozen for a week before your planned event. Just bake the ladyfingers and base, line your mold with the powdered sugar side of the sponge cakes facing out and hold it in the freezer while making your filling. Once filled, fridge it for a day or two ahead or freeze for a week if need be. It’s a beautiful thing.

The final garnish can be completed the day you plan to serve.

As you can see below, I tucked scraps of sponge cake along the inside bottom edge and where the ladyfinger borders meet to provide a secure cocoon for my raspberry filling. For just a little something extra I arranged fresh raspberries on the bottom.


Having completed my filling of raspberry bavarois lightened with Italian meringue, I poured it into my ladyfinger-ed mold almost to the top. Just remember - due to the timing of adding the gelatin and cooling the crème anglaise to just the right temperature for adding the whipped cream and Italian meringue, it’s imperative that your border and base are at the ready. Once the filling is in it’s simply a matter of chilling the whole thing and letting the filling set.


A final topping of crème Chantilly and fresh raspberries, and you can call it a day!


Since I made this for someone else’s party, I couldn’t slice into this baby right then and there to show you a cut section. Buuuuut . . . . I certainly did taste some ladyfinger scraps with a bit of the bavarois filling, and I say yes indeed!


Michigan cherry charlotte

It's Michigan sweet cherry season!

There are so many delicious things to make with sweet cherries, and, since I had some petite lady fingers in my freezer, my mind turned toward a cherry version of a classic charlotte.

A charlotte is a dessert assembled in a mold lined with lady fingers, sponge cake or bread and then filled with a fruit mousse, Bavarian cream, whipped cream or custard.

I remember making a pear version in pastry school and recall it was quite tasty indeed.  I don't believe I've made one since.

It was time.

First a brief note about lady fingers.  They belong in the category of sponge cake and are really quite straight forward to make.

To prepare for piping the lady fingers I marked a half sheet pan in 3 inch wide increments as a guide for my piping.  You can make your lady fingers any size your little heart desires!

The base recipe we used at Le Cordon Bleu calls for 4 eggs, separated; 125 grams sugar and 125 grams all purpose flour.

The egg whites are whipped to medium stiff peaks along with half the sugar.  The yolks are then whisked with the other half of the sugar until pale and thickened and are folded into the beaten whites.

beaten yolks and whites plus flour ready to be added

Then half the flour is gently folded into the egg mixture, followed by the second half of the flour just until blended.  Don't overwork it.

all folded and ready to pipe

Pipe the batter in rows . . . . .

and dust with powdered sugar before baking in a 375 F oven for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.

ready for the oven
Et voila!

I had served some of the lady fingers sandwiched with lemon curd and strawberry jam at a recent demo presentation, but the rest went into the freezer (they freeze very well!) just waiting to be incorporated into a luscious, creamy charlotte.

I used a 16 centimeter round ring mold for my charlotte assembly and opted to bake a round of tart cherry shortbread as my base.

ready for the oven

Once the shortbread base was baked and cooled, I lined the ring rather rustically with waxed paper sheets, put the shortbread base in and coated it with a brushing of chocolate ganache.  This was meant to protect it from the soon-to-come cherry mousse filling and keep it crisp.

I then lined the ring sides and base with the lady fingers and imbibed them with vanilla simple syrup.

I wasn't quite ready to make my cherry mousse so I popped the assemblage into the freezer to await the final stages.

For the mousse I needed cherry purée, whipped cream and Italian meringue (boy, I haven't made THAT in forever!!).

I puréed 130 grams of pitted and halved cherries with about a tablespoon of sugar, a generous squeeze of lemon juice and a couple of teaspoons of water.

yup - looks like a purée

I made a small batch of Italian meringue by cooking 50 grams sugar and 20 ml water to 118ºC . . . .

then pouring the sugar syrup over one whipped egg white and whipping until cooled and nicely shiny and stiff.

(Note to self - plan ahead for various uses and make a larger batch of Italian meringue next time!)

Then I whipped 150 ml heavy cream to soft peaks.

Below are all three components ready to be blended.

Once the mousse was blended I filled my lady finger lined charlotte ring and smoothed the top.

I placed the charlotte into the freezer to set.

For my garnish I used 120 grams of pitted and halved cherries, cooked them with a little sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice until thickened, then let them cool.

Once the mousse was set (after an hour or so in the freezer), I topped it with the cooled cherries and added a rim of crushed chocolate shortbread cookies to give it a bit of flair.

Michigan cherry charlotte
Mom came over for a delicious summer supper of grilled chicken, fresh green beans with broccoli and sliced almonds thrown in for good measure, and couscous (all prepared by head chef Steve!).

And, of course, for dessert we three simply had to sample the cherry charlotte.

We agreed that the mousse was SOOO . .  light with a clear taste of cherries.  The shortbread crust, cherry topping and dashes of chocolate all made for a tasty combination.

And after an overnight in the fridge it was still delicious the next day - yessirree!

Here's to summer!!